Aligarh (UP), Jun 1 (PTI) Post-mortems of 16 more suspected hooch victims were conducted here in the last two days, raising their number to 87, but authorities on Wednesday kept the official death toll in tragedy pegged at 35.
The authorities said the official death toll would be revised only after the viscera test reports confirm the cause of deaths of all those who are suspected of having died due to spurious liquor consumption.
Aligarh's Chief Medical Officer Dr Bhanu Pratap Kalyani had on Monday said 71 post-mortems had been conducted till then on suspected hooch victims.
After autopsies of 16 more people in the last two days, the number of people suspected of having died due to spurious liquor consumption has now risen to 87.
District authorities, however, on Wednesday reiterated that the official death toll still stands at 35.
An official spokesperson said the remaining deaths would be included in the official tally only after viscera reports of victims are received from the designated government laboratory at Agra.
Amid the lack of clarity over the number of “actual and official” figures of death in the hooch tragedy, a Congress leader wrote to Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath demanding the removal of doubts over the two counts.
The police, meanwhile, arrested one more person, the brother of the absconding illicit liquor trade kingpin, raising the number of those arrested after the spate of deaths in the hooch tragedy to 34.
Amid the rising deaths due to suspected consumption of spurious liquor, the district authorities on Wednesday asked all liquor vends to return their entire existing stock of country-made liquor to the Excise Department godowns for replacement.
Additional District Magistrate (Finance) Vidhan Jaiswal said the process of confiscating properties of members of the liquor mafia has started and buildings housing illicit vends would be 'bulldozed'.
More than a dozen vends have been sealed, he added.
Jaiswal also clarified that so far names of only 35 confirmed victims of the hooch tragedy have been cleared for ex gratia relief.
About the remaining 52 suspected victims of the hooch tragedy, he reiterated that 'as soon as we receive confirmation of the cause of death from their viscera report, they will be included in the relief list'.
He also confirmed that ex gratia relief of Rs 5 lakh under Chief Minister Krishak Sahaita Yojana is restricted only to those persons 'who own some agricultural land'.
This implies that landless and self-employed labours or salaried employees will not be beneficiaries under this particular scheme of relief.
The number of people arrested for their alleged involvement in the illicit liquor trade has risen to 34, they said.
Since the first death in the hooch tragedy was reported on May 28, the police have been carrying out raids across the district to seize illegal liquor.
In the past 24 hours, the police also arrested Munish Sharma, the brother of illicit liquor trade kingpin Rishi Sharma who is still absconding.
Senior Superintendent of Police Kalanidhi Naithani said till Tuesday evening, 12 cases were lodged in different police stations against those involved in the organised crime of illicit liquor trade and 34 people arrested in these cases.
Those arrested during the past three days included six owners of illicit liquor vends and 12 of their accomplices operating in the field, the SSP said.
Action has also been taken against four police inspectors and one circle officer for dereliction of duty in dealing with liquor mafia members.
Former Congress MLA from Aligarh, Vivek Bansal, wrote to Adityanath demanding the removal of the “continuing discrepancy between official and actual” death toll in the hooch tragedy.
The families of hooch tragedy victims, traumatised by the loss of their breadwinners, should not be subjected to further agony by questioning the cause of deaths of their loved ones on 'technical grounds', Bansal urged the chief minister. PTI CORR ABN RAX RAX